Ready to drive?

Hir­ing self-drive boats is pop­u­lar, par­tic­u­larly for fish­ing in Nor­way

Sea Angler (UK) - - BOAT ANGLER -

Af­ter months or even years of an­tic­i­pa­tion and hard sav­ing, a cou­ple of flights, a long drive and pos­si­bly a short trip or two aboard a ferry, fi­nally you ar­rive at your self-cater­ing cabin at one of Arc­tic Nor­way’s many fish­ing camps. Even your lug­gage has com­pleted the jour­ney un­scathed.

With per­fect weather con­di­tions beck­on­ing and your self-drive boat wait­ing fully fu­elled and ready to go at her berth at the camp dock, it’s hardly sur­pris­ing you are ex­cited at the prospects of catch­ing some of the in­cred­i­ble fish that first at­tracted you to travel to these rich­est of rich seas. Maybe you or one of your party is ex­pe­ri­enced at boat han­dling or per­haps you own a boat, but, for many, as­sum­ing the role of skip­per will be a new ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you fall into the for­mer cat­e­gory then a run through of the camp’s rules and op­er­at­ing pol­icy from the fish­ing man­ager, fol­lowed by some on-board fa­mil­iari­sa­tion, should see you safely on your way. If, how­ever, you fall into the lat­ter, in­ex­pe­ri­enced cat­e­gory, I sug­gest you sup­press your en­thu­si­asm to fish and spend an hour or two get­ting to grips with the boat, be­fore head­ing out to sea. Here are five main ar­eas to con­sider to get the best from your hire boat…


At all of the many camps I’ve fished through­out Nor­way, the fish­ing man­ager, or an­other nom­i­nated per­son, will brief you on the boat when you ar­rive. My first piece of ad­vice is to pay full at­ten­tion to what he or she has to say.

Typ­i­cally, there will be three or four in your party who will be fish­ing aboard your boat, and if this is the case, I sug­gest that straight away one of you is nom­i­nated as the skip­per.

Boat han­dling is not es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult, but get­ting to grips with a new boat and find­ing out ex­actly where every­thing is and how it works does take time. Even with more than 40 years of boat-han­dling ex­pe­ri­ence, it still takes me a few hours to be­come thor­oughly com­fort­able run­ning a new boat, just as it takes a while to get the feel of a strange car. It’s not so much ac­tu­ally driv­ing the boat, but get­ting the hang of what’s what and where every­thing is, and how to op­er­ate the elec­tron­ics.

I sug­gest that only the nom­i­nated driver goes down to the boat to meet the man­ager for this ini­tial fa­mil­iari­sa­tion ses­sion. This will give him the best op­por­tu­nity to go over every­thing slowly and in a me­thod­i­cal way, with time to

ask ques­tions and ac­tu­ally lis­ten to and ab­sorb the an­swers. If the whole crew de­scend on the boat, com­plete with moun­tains of fish­ing tackle, things will very quickly be­come noisy and con­fused. It is likely you will not get the most from this im­por­tant fa­mil­iari­sa­tion ses­sion.


Be­fore you even be­gin to think about driv­ing the boat, there are a lot of things you need to note. Where is the fuel tank, and is it full? At most camps, boats are handed over at the start of the week with a full tank and ex­pected to be handed back at the end of the week in the same con­di­tion, but it is good prac­tice to start each day or new fish­ing ses­sion with a full tank.

You may not plan to go more than a few miles or stay out more than a cou­ple of hours, but once at sea and the fish start bit­ing plans can, and of­ten do, change.

Is the en­gine petrol or diesel? An ob­vi­ous ques­tion. This past sea­son a crew at Sk­jer­voy fish camp re­filled a petrol-driven out­board’s in­board fuel tank with diesel, re­sult­ing in a lot of valu­able fish­ing time lost, not to men­tion in­cur­ring con­sid­er­able ad­di­tional and un­nec­es­sary ex­pense.

Where are the life jack­ets and the fire ex­tin­guisher? Don’t just ac­cept that they are “in that locker,” but open the locker and check them. In­deed, on day one life jack­ets should be handed out to each crew­man, tried on and cor­rectly ad­justed, then ide­ally worn at all times.

Most boats have a bat­tery iso­la­tor, or two, which should be switched off at the end of the day to pre­vent power drain, and ob­vi­ously back on when you next go fish­ing. Make sure you know ex­actly where this is and ex­actly which po­si­tion is on and which is off, be­cause it’s not al­ways self-ex­plana­tory. Just imag­ine wak­ing on a per­fect morn­ing, en­joy­ing a full cooked break­fast then set­ting out for a day on the water. You step aboard your hire boat, the skip­per turns the ig­ni­tion key and noth­ing hap­pens. The power was left on overnight and the bat­ter­ies have gone flat.

You will need to fully fa­mil­iarise your­self with the en­gine’s start­ing pro­ce­dure, mak­ing cer­tain you know how the kill cord works, and that you know how to smoothly op­er­ate the gear shift and en­gine trim.

Spend a few min­utes run­ning through all of the switches op­er­at­ing var­i­ous lights, wind­screen wipers, bilge pumps and elec­tron­ics, and check­ing they all work. Find­ing out the wipers don’t work when punch­ing your way back through heavy rain or sloppy seas throw­ing sheets of spray over the wind­screen is not a great ex­pe­ri­ence. Wipers not work­ing are usu­ally the re­sult of a loose wire or blown fuse that can be very eas­ily fixed.


Ma­rine elec­tron­ics are not dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate, but you need to spend time play­ing with them in or­der to fig­ure out how to quickly nav­i­gate your way through a par­tic­u­lar man­u­fac­turer’s menu-driven sys­tem. Once again, the man­ager will run you through these, and don’t for­get to en­sure the unit’s lan­guage dis­play is set up is in English. Bet­ter still, why not get him to set up the dis­plays in a for­mat you like and un­der­stand, then all you will need to do is switch on the unit when you go fish­ing?

I al­ways spend as long as it takes to ori­en­tate my­self around the var­i­ous menu fields and other func­tions be­fore I leave the dock on day one.

In­ter­na­tional law states that in or­der for a ma­rine VHF ra­dio to be used aboard a boat, at least one per­son aboard must hold a valid VHF op­er­a­tors cer­tifi­cate. Clearly this is not al­ways pos­si­ble with self-drive boats, con­se­quently, none of the many self-drive boats I have used in Nor­way have been fit­ted with a VHF.

Camps rely on mo­bile phones to keep in touch with their boats at sea, and visa versa. Yes, I know mo­bile phones are not ideal, but from much per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence I have found that the net­work cov­er­age through­out even the re­motest north­ern fjords is very good.

En­sure you have the rel­e­vant con­tact num­ber or num­bers for the camp and man­ager writ­ten down, and stored aboard the boat not in your cabin. Like­wise, en­sure this num­ber is saved in ev­ery one of the crew’s phones, and ob­vi­ously make sure your phones are fully charged when­ever set­ting off for a day’s fish­ing.


Fi­nally, take a thor­ough look around the en­tire boat check­ing in­side all lock­ers, not­ing and pho­tograph­ing any ex­ist­ing dam­age, which you should bring to the at­ten­tion of the camp man­ager be­fore you sail on day one.

Check you have a gaff or land­ing net on board, and buck­ets for wash­ing down and emer­gency bail­ing. Note the po­si­tion of all moor­ing ropes. Do these stay on the dock when you sail, or do they re­main aboard the boat? If the lat­ter, en­sure they are safely stowed and can­not fall over­board and foul the pro­peller.

Note the lo­ca­tion of all fend­ers be­cause a lot of se­ri­ous dam­age can be caused to the boat’s hull if she is not se­curely moored and cor­rectly pro­tected with suf­fi­cient fend­ers.

Each day a fresh weather up­date should be posted in a prom­i­nent place at the camp: read it. Re­gard­less of what your var­i­ous mo­bile phone weather fore­cast apps have told you, if the camp says it’s too rough to fish, then it is too rough to fish, end of ar­gu­ment.

Take note of the camp’s lim­its of op­er­a­tion in­side which you must re­main at all times, re­gard­less of how good or set­tled the weather is. Run­ning just a few more miles fur­ther from these lim­its, even un­der per­fect con­di­tions could well take you out­side of mo­bile phone range, which is not a good place to be if you en­counter a prob­lem. If you do en­counter a prob­lem and for some rea­son are un­able to re­port it, then clearly the camp will start look­ing for you where you should be, rather than where you shouldn’t.


If you have never ac­tu­ally driven a boat be­fore, have a few at­tempts at leav­ing and re­turn­ing to your des­ig­nated berth

un­der close su­per­vi­sion of the camp man­ager.

Most close-quar­ters han­dling prob­lems oc­cur when a boat is be­ing driv­ing too fast. When op­er­at­ing a boat, the slow­est speed is usu­ally the best.

Re­mem­ber that when you pull back from for­ward gear into neu­tral, the mo­men­tum of the boat will keep her trav­el­ling for­ward for a dis­tance pro­por­tion­ate to the speed at which you were run­ning. An­tic­i­pat­ing this and re­mem­ber­ing that as long as you have for­ward mo­men­tum you will also re­tain steer­age, is the key to berthing a boat.

If you think that a par­tic­u­lar ma­noeu­vre is not go­ing as planned, then al­most cer­tainly it isn’t, so rather than push ahead to ‘see what hap­pens’ stop, back off and reposition in open safe water, and have a se­cond at­tempt.

Once faced with open water and a calm sea, many an­glers have one speed – flat out. Fuel, like most other things in Nor­way, is ex­pen­sive, and the faster you run the boat the more fuel you will use, in­vari­ably by a con­sid­er­able mar­gin. Tak­ing things slowly is not only safer and more com­fort­able for all on board, but also more eco­nom­i­cal.

Many new boats to­day are fit­ted with elec­tronic gauges show­ing you ex­actly how much fuel you are burn­ing at any given speed. The ex­tra fuel burn to run at 30 knots rather than 20 knots will pro­vide just a few ex­tra min­utes fish­ing time, at the cost of a se­ri­ous dent in your credit card.

Clearly, if con­di­tions are not calm you’ll have to run at slower speeds, with the ex­act speed be­ing dic­tated by the sea con­di­tions and the type of boat. Re­gard­less of all of these vari­able fac­tors, if the hull is slam­ming while un­der­way, you are driv­ing the boat too fast for the pre­vail­ing con­di­tions; no ar­gu­ment, so slow down.

■ Next month: Ad­vice on find­ing fish within a large Nor­we­gian fjord.

Get­ting to grips with any new boat takes time

Self-drive boats for the fan­tas­tic fjords

Petrol or diesel? Get it right!

Make your­self fa­mil­iar with all the con­trols

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